The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network publishes the World Happiness Report every year on March 20, the International Day of Happiness.
The report uses data from the past two years’ Gallup World Poll surveys, with 149 countries surveyed for this year’s edition. The report’s rankings are based on an assessment of six factors — GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom and corruption.
According to this year’s report, the leading countries for happiness in the Asia-Pacific region are New Zealand in ninth place overall, Australia in 12th place and Taiwan in 19th place, while Japan ranks 40th, South Korea 50th and China 52nd.
With respect to long-term trends, Taiwan in 2013 ranked a relatively low 42nd, but advanced to 33rd in 2017.
In 2018, it broke into the top 30 by reaching 26th place, and it further improved to 25th in 2019 and 24th last year.
This year, it has braved the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic to advance to 19th place, while maintaining its status as the happiest country in East Asia.
In light of the picture that domestic media present of society, some Taiwanese might not think that life in the nation is particularly happy. Individual perceptions might vary, and should be respected.
Nonetheless, international surveys such as those released by the UN are objective comparisons of countries around the world, and when Taiwan receives such a high rating, one cannot help feeling a “sense of relative advantage.”
Especially those in government deserve to feel a sense of honor, but the opposition parties can also claim a share in what has been achieved under their strong supervision.
As a Taiwanese, the next time someone asks you whether you have been happy in the past few years, you can at least answer with a smile that evidence published under the auspices of the UN shows that Taiwan’s happiness ranks 19th in the world. If we do not feel happy, what about all the people who live in advanced countries that rank below us?
On the other hand, those in government should continue to step gingerly, as if treading on thin ice. They must go on striving to optimize their governance of the nation. That would be the most concrete way for them to respond to the high evaluation that the public has given them.
Tsao Yao-chun is a researcher with the Chinese Association of Public Affairs Management.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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